2022 marked the worst natural gas and energy crisis in history due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war in Ukraine has strongly impacted the global natural gas market because of the predominant role of Russian gas in European energy supply. Russian pipeline gas exports to Europe slumped to the lowest level observed since the mid-1980s, resulting in a loss of 77 bcm, equivalent to 20% of EU gas consumption in 2021, which had to be replaced. The global gas market was already tight in 2021 and the Russian gas supply crisis has thus further exacerbated the tightening and the volatility of gas markets. Prices of all commodities and energies spiked and the European gas prices in particular showed an exceptional volatility. Countries responded to energy security issues and high gas prices with gas-to-coal switching (Germany, Asia), energy savings and an acceleration of the development of clean energy technologies. Furthermore, the slower economic growth and the explosion in gas prices led to a destruction of industrial gas demand.
In 2021, global gas demand surged 4.5% and recorded the largest volumetric growth on record, with an annual gain of 173 bcm that more than offset the 2020 2% decline. This strong rebound took place in the context of a faster than expected economic recovery following the lifting of lockdowns and a strong growth of global energy demand. Both economic, geopolitical and weather factors contributed to the growing and unprecedented tightness of the global gas market. They led to an explosion of Asian and European spot prices to historic highs.
In the context of the COVID-19-driven economic crisis and an abnormally warm climate, global gas consumption fell 1.8% in 2020, the third decline ever recorded in the history of the global natural gas industry. In the face of extreme volatility, driven by the evolving influence of the pandemic on energy demand throughout the year, as well as weather events and technical outages, natural gas demand, especially LNG demand, was resilient, contrary to other fossil fuels.